Yesterday the State Senate approved major charter school legislation.  HB 618, passed by the Senate on a straight party-line vote, transfers the right to authorize charter schools from the State Board of Education to the newly-created, Charter School Review Board.  The Charter Review Board will consist of eleven members; four members recommended by the President Pro Tempore of the State Senate,  four members by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, two members who are charter school advocates and the Lieutenant Governor or a designee.  Under the legislation, the State Board of Education will not decide questions of whether to authorize a charter. Rather it will serve as an appeals board, deciding questions as to whether to grant, renew, revoke or amend charters for individual schools.

In addition to authorizing new charters, the Charter School Review Board will also enable fast-tracking for the replication of charter schools. It will facilitate final approval to applications and also help with material and non-material revisions to charters. 

Providing the Charter School Review Board with the authority to authorize charter schools is a big win for charter school advocates.  The move will also help to streamline the application process but still gives the State Board of Education authority over all appeals.

 It’s no secret the State Board of Education and the Charter School Advisory Board – the board that makes recommendations to the State Board of Education regarding charter school authorizations and the board that would likely be replaced by the Charter School Review Board — didn’t see on to eye on many issues. Those differences derive largely from who serves on each board.  In the case of the Charter School Advisory Board, the House and Senate — both bodies controlled by Republicans — have a majority (8 of 12) of appointments on CSAB, while in the case of the State Board of Education, Governor Cooper, a Democrat, has the authority to appoint 11 of 13 board members.

HB 618 passed the House in early May.  The bill now goes to the Governor’s desk for action.  The conventional wisdom is that Cooper will veto the bill.   If he does, it will require a successful veto override in both the House and Senate to become law.

According to folks who know more than I do on such matters, If enacted, it’s a good bet, the legislation will be challenged in court. That could tie up implementation for about a year, but it’s a likely path.